Fred Kaplan at Slate is commenting on Condi Rice’s tendency to classify herself as a “student of history” who sees the world in such a grand scheme of time that nothing can be done/evaluated/judged in the present. He has this quote:
I’m a student of history, so perhaps I have a little more patience with enormous change in the international system. It’s a big shifting of tectonic plates, and I don’t expect it to happen in a few days or even in a year.
So people can bomb each other for oh, say, even a year, and then it will take us 20 or 30 years to say whether we think it was a good idea. That is, since we are students of history, we need to have this patience with bombs.
I’ve been hanging around students of history long enough to know know that they do not necessarily refer judgement of all present decisions and actions to some distant future. They usually have enough examples from the past to be pretty opinionated, and they don’t mind telling you about it. Condi Rice is past her sophomore year — she is a national leader who should at least think something. The history she knows has apparently given her no criteria to help her decide whether an action is good or bad. An actual student of history in her position might use examples from the past to inform the present. She is refusing to process in present time the information that is before her, and I will hazard a guess that history will say she was just along for the ride.